Everton legend Watson previews European youth final

20 July 2023 - 3:36 pm

Former Everton midfielder Lee Carsley will lead England’s Under-21s to this weekend’s Euro final against Spain in hopes of becoming the first Three Lions side to lift the trophy since 1984. The victorious captain 39 years ago was future Everton legend Dave Watson, who has been speaking exclusively to evertonfc.com about his memories…

Dave, you were at Norwich City, must you still be very proud when you look back on your success in 1984?

Yes I do. I think about that every time England play again and we have a good time. It was a great experience for us to travel around Europe and play against different teams from different cultures. A lot of the lads in our squad have won full internationals and that’s what it’s really about. It’s not just about making yourself great at that level, it’s about taking you one step further.

I remember we beat Denmark 4-1 home and away in the group stage, Norwich at home, which was fine for me. Other than that, I can’t remember much other than the semi-final against France and the final against Spain. It was a legitimate and tough game, especially towards the end. We had some really good games against some top young players.

Do you remember feeling more and more stressed as the game progressed?

You know what, I guess I didn’t make it. I certainly don’t recall feeling any pressure during the game. Dave Sexton is the coach and he’s great at making people feel welcome and making the players nice and relaxed, even when they’re on the bench during games. All of us love being part of this group.

Honestly, the team spirit is absolutely fantastic. Whenever we meet up before a game, we meet at a hotel in Sheffield. We’d show up on Saturday nights from anywhere that day’s game to get a bite to eat or a couple of drinks, and there was a great, relaxed atmosphere.

How good is Dave Sexton?

Very nice, he is also a psychologist. He would get into our heads, and in this he was ahead of his time, because we knew nothing about psychology at the time. He was accompanied by a physiotherapist named Alan Smith from Sheffield Wednesday. Bobby Robson was apparently around too, poking his head into the locker room at times.

Many players on the 1984 team won senior team appearances, such as Gary Bailey, Gary Stevens, Steve Hodge, Mark Hartley.

Sometimes players get called up to England just to give them some experience and that can happen too many times, but for us we have more or less a consistent squad throughout the game. It helps build confidence in the team when you know you’re likely to be picked every time.

Mark Hartley did a great job for us. His power is very strong, especially when he turns and rushes towards the defender, and he obviously grabs the air. He’s a great outlet for anyone in trouble… as Great Duncan did for Everton a few years later.

Your future Everton team-mates Derek Montfield, Gary Stevens and Paul Bracewell are all in the squad…

Yeah, when I joined Everton it was just a case of walking in the door because I knew the lads, we’d been together for a while and I knew Reddy and Trevor (Steven) from the England team.

Ironically, the 2023 England team also played against Spain in the final?

The final will be a grueling match against players likely to be Spanish players aged 16, 17 and over. But it’s all about knowing how to win the game, whether it’s exciting or not – you have to win the trophy.

We played against top players like Emilio Butragueno and Andoni Zubizereta, but I’m sure they looked back and thought we had a player or two of our own as well.

How good has Lee Carsley been in the England 21 team?

He did a fantastic job. I’ve never really worked with Lee or been on a team with him so I don’t know if he’s a defensive guy but they didn’t concede any balls in the game if you can keep a clean sheet The ball and you have a chance to score for yourself, especially given the quality of the England team.